Low-voltage systems use a transformer, either as a separate unit or built into the lighting fixture, to transform the 120-volt service to around 7 to 10 volts. The capacity needs to be matched to the lamp wattage, and the transformer should be in a central location. The very small low-voltage lamps have a separate transformer you will need to hide in or above a cabinet. Transformers incorporated into a fixture increase the size of the fixture, making the light source more difficult to hide.
Low-voltage lights come in a large variety of styles and offer many advantages. Low-voltage lights come with either halogen or xenon lamps, which last much longer (2000 to 3500 hours) than standard incandescent lamps. Halogen lights burn at a very high temperature, and even though the low-voltage lamps are small, added together they can still produce a significant amount of heat. Therefore, keep them out of reach of users and flammable objects. They are easy to wire for remodeling, and provide a very white and crisp light that can serve as an accent or create a sparkle.
In addition to small track and recessed lights for general lighting, low-voltage lamps can fit very small places providing light for cabinets, shelves, mirrors, floors, and artwork. Low-voltage lights can also make good night lights (see Figure 7.19). Drawbacks include high cost and limited availability in some areas.
Although most lighting systems are generally tested and safe to use, following proper installation instructions and placing fixtures in locations away from contact with people, are extremely important steps to preventing light fixture hazards.
Safe installation is particularly important with recessed lights. If installed too close to construction members or smothered by insulation, these fixtures can reach very high temperatures and ignite materials around them. Many recessed fixtures are designed with built-in air spaces to help cool the bulbs.
Installing the incorrect lamp into a particular fixture can also increase the chances of a fire. Many times when a fixture is selected, it is difficult to tell how much light it may emit within a room. The size of the room, the colors used, and the textures present can all make a difference as to how much light is available.
If your client finds the fixture is not producing the amount of light they desired, they may increase the wattage of the lamps inside it. This will indeed provide more light, but in the meantime the larger lamps will give off more heat than the fixture can handle. The fixture can become hot to the point where it can crack or ignite. Think through the lighting needs carefully and select the appropriate lighting fixtures to avoid this.
Another safety precaution is to avoid contact with the light lamps. Many lamp types, like incandescent and halogen lamps, produce a significant amount of heat as they produce light. Be careful to locate these lamps where your client cannot easily come into contact with them, such as while walking through the room or reaching for something.
Planning for electrical and mechanical equipment is more essential than ever. Changing lifestyles, a surge in technology, and an increase in the number of activities, fixtures, and electronic devices in the bathroom, all create a space that demands attention to the systems that form the structure for this equipment. Without a clear and detailed plan and an attention to local code requirements, necessary components of such a system can be easily overlooked, leading to disappointment on the part of the client, or added costs if features need to be redone.
Two features of a bathroom that require special consideration are the ventilation and lighting systems. Both features add to the bathroom’s comfort, and adequate lighting is essential for a variety of tasks and activities that take place in the bathroom. Proper planning of these features will add to the client’s satisfaction.
1. What are the electric code requirement and guidelines for a bathroom? (See "Codes" pages 203)
2. What should be considered when selecting a heating system for a bathroom? (See "Heating Considerations" page 207)
3. What are the ventilation requirements for a bathroom and what factors are important for it to be efficient? (See "Ventilation" page 212)
4. What considerations are essential when selecting task lighting for a bathroom? (See "Task Lighting" page 225)
5. How are lighting, quality, quantity, and efficiency measured? (See "Lighting Terms" pages 227)
6. Describe some major differences between incandescent, fluorescent, and LED lamp choices. (See "Types of Lamps" page 227)